Fitness Friday: Overextension

I have been “burning the candle at both ends” and some in the middle for the past month and it finally caught up with me in the form of a cold. This cold has knocked me down and out of my regular fitness routine and it has also taught me a valuable lesson about balance.

One month ago, I started a new job. Now, I am a self-described “All In” person, which means I give 100% effort to what I am involved in. So when I started the new job, I was “All In”, giving it 100% effort during the day. Meanwhile trying to keep up with the other activities I had become involved with over the past 14 months: involvement with several non-profits (serving as a board member or as a volunteer), keeping up a regular fitness schedule, reading a number of blogs, posting to various social media sites, continuing to facilitate a weekly meeting of executives in career transition, and being actively involved in my church. This very full schedule meant that something had to give, and I initially chose sleep as the area where I could cut back. I knew that others routinely got up at 5:00 AM to get in their workout and start their day, so I thought why not me. I got up at 5:00 AM and worked out, did the job thing during the day, worked on all the other activities at night, heading to bed a little later every night. The first two weeks of this went well, or so I thought. Then it hit, like a strong gust on a clear day, a cold, a common everyday cold.

I have not had a cold for several years, and I am fastidious about washing hands and taking other precautions to minimize my exposure and risk, so what happened? The only thing I can figure out is that I had deprived myself of the essential rest that I needed and became otherwise vulnerable. I recognized right away that I needed more rest and started going to bed earlier and let my morning fitness routine go in favor of a quicker recovery (plus knowing that I needed to let my body fight off the intruding cold). One week later, the cold is almost gone, I am more well rested, and I am wiser for the experience. Specifically, I have realized that I require 6 to 7 hours of sleep per night. In order to accomplish that I am going to have to re-prioritize things and likely let some things go, and since my fitness is a priority, it is going to have to be one of the other activities. I will take time this coming weekend to do this prioritization, make some hard decisions and communicate those choices with the people most directly impacted.

So why is this part of Fitness Friday? Well, quite simply, it is because your fitness relies on balance and not over-extending yourself. That is not to say you should not challenge yourself and reach for higher goals, just don’t head out on your first run and decide that this time you are going for 26.2 miles. As for me, I am going to strive for better balance in all my activities, including getting the right amount of rest, continuing to eat well, and get back into my regular workout schedule.

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Fitness Friday: Guard your heart!


Today is the annual American Heart Association GO RED! for Women day. This, combined with a podcast I was listening to this morning, reminded me of the importance of guarding our heart, both emotionally and physically. I know there are plenty of other folks who can address the emotional side of guarding our hearts, I just know more about the physical.

Physically guarding your heart means doing the right things nutritionally to maintain good heart health, it means monitoring your blood pressure, it means exercising your heart (just like any other muscle), and it means paying attention to the signs and messages that your heart is giving you.

As a beginner triathlete, I am learning about heart rate training for endurance events, which means I am trying to listen to my body and know what my heart rate is related to the effort I am putting forth. I am finding out that this is hard work, as it is easier to just power up that hill than to pay attention to my heart rate and slow my pace to keep my heart rate in the proper training zone. Yet, every time I do a heart rate focused training, I learn more about my body and how to maintain proper form and stay focused on my training objective.

So as you head out today or over the weekend, be focused on guarding your heart and do something nice for your heart, because as Proverbs 4:23 (NIV) says:

Above all else, guard your heart,
   for everything you do flows from it.

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Fitness Friday: Are you ready for the crowds?

Next Wednesday your local gym/wellness center/YMCA/trail will be full of people you have not seen since…, well since last January. It will be frustrating, since they will be trying out all the new equipment (kettlebells, TRX, heavy ropes) and using the treadmill that you always use. Do not despair, all will be well in about a week or two.

I wish these people no ill will, I have been in their shoes, working out too hard then spending the next week in recovery discovering through pain and discomfort muscle groups that I did not know I had. I learned from this experience that you need to have a plan, a written plan, with specific objectives, and then have the focus to stick to the plan. I was not one of the folks who started in January, I had a different start date, yet I also knew that to be successful I could not just wander in and throw around some weights and run on the treadmill. I started with a simple plan and followed it. That was over 6 years (and 80 lbs) ago and I have learned much on the journey. Some of the lessons include: the impact of proper nutrition, how to utilize different types of weights (dumbbells, free weights, medicine balls, etc.), mixing cardio and strength training, and the importance of rest. These lessons have formed the basis of the overall fitness habits that I have developed and work to maintain.

So knowing that the crowds of New Year’s Resolution makers is coming next week, what is your plan? Do you take the week off and avoid the crowds or change your workout time to avoid the before-work/lunch-time/after-work busy times? Whatever you decide, realize that you too need to have a plan, with alternatives in case it is too crowded or the equipment is busy, and do not despair, eventually those without a plan will stop coming as something else take priority (such as applying muscle recovery cream). Then again, perhaps one of those new folks will come with a plan to ask a “regular” about the best way to make their time at the gym valuable and you can help someone come up with a plan that will change their life.

Have a safe and prosperous New Year!

+Mike C.

P.S. I know it has been a while since I posted. No excuses, this just fell down the list of priorities. One of my goals for the coming year is to be better at scheduling and writing regular blog posts. Guess I need to work that into my plans…

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Fitness Friday: “Baby, it’s cold outside…”

If you live north of the Mason-Dixon line (if you do not know if you are, you probably are), it is time to break out the cold weather gear for outdoor activity for the next several months. Over the years I have struggled with how to approach running in the cold and have relegated my bike riding to time on the indoor trainer. This year I am going to make a more concerted effort to do more outdoor activity. Here is some of what I have learned and how I will be applying it to my training.

Layering: Layering your clothing is critical, not only because it will be cold when you walk out of the house, but since conditions can change during your run/ride. Normally, you will get warm pretty quick, but if a cloud covers the sun or the wind picks up, you will be glad that you have that extra layer. The key to successful layering is that the gear is easy to remove/add when running. My favorites include a full zipper sweatshirt (allows me to slowly open it as I warm up, and I can wrap it around my waist when I get fully warmed up). It is always a good idea to have the base layer be a wicking layer to draw moisture away from your skin.

Appropriate Clothing: I found this cold weather clothing chart on Active.com and I think it is incredibly useful when dressing for my runs. I have invested in tights, sport gloves, and long sleeve technical shirts to add to my running shorts. Note to guys: ALWAYS wear running shorts over your running tights, seriously, ALWAYS! I usually wear a visor or hat when I run, so I just move to a stocking cap when it gets cold.

Be Seen: Along with the cold weather, there are fewer hours of daylight for outdoor activities, so make sure you are visible to traffic and other outdoor enthusiasts. Use reflective tape on your clothes, buy a safety vest (I got mine at a hardware store), or add lights to yourself and your bike.

I am still trying to figure out how to best dress for cold weather riding, so I will continue to experiment with that this year, including talking with my friends who do cyclo-cross to learn from them. If you have any cold weather tips, add a comment below.

In the meantime, enjoy the change of the seasons!

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11/16/12: Fitness Friday: On the road again…

With the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday in the USA, many folks will be hitting the road to visit family and may be far away from their regular fitness routine. I used to think that meant I would lose those days and would have to reset when I got back. I have learned that there are easy ways to maintain your exercise plan while traveling. Here are three ways to maintain your fitness routine while on the road or away from home:

1. Running and walking: One of the things  I like the most about being a runner is that I can do it anywhere. I am bringing shoes and socks with me anyway, I just need to make sure to bring running shorts, a shirt and my Garmin Forerunner. I also pack an extra bag for my running clothes, because they tend to be a little more ‘smelly’.

2. Body weight exercises: You do not need a fully equipped gym to get a good workout. There are a number of body-weight exercises that you can do in almost any location. Here are some of my favorites: sit-ups, crunches, push-ups (regular, incline, diamond), lunges, step-ups, plank (regular, side), squat-thrusts, mountain climbers.

3. Exercise bands: An exercise band is easy to pack and can be used for resistance training and stretching.

A little creativity and planning goes a long way to keep you on track with your fitness activities when traveling for business, pleasure, or to see family.

What tips do you have for road warriors or others traveling who want to maintain their fitness regimen?

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Fitness Friday: How well do you “practice”?

There is a saying in team sports about the relationship between practice and game performance, “You play how you practice.” This means if you practice with intensity, focus, with an intended outcome, you will carry that performance over to the game situation.

I am not a professional athlete, and most of the events that I participate in are individual events, however this saying applies just as much to me (and to you) in how we approach our daily routines and workouts/training sessions. If you approach your exercise session without a plan and just go haphazardly into the gym/wellness center/spare bedroom and just do some “stuff”, have you really made a difference in your overall fitness? I would argue that no you did not. Now, I have been guilty of doing a run, “because I need to do something”, however I have also discovered that those are often my worst workouts. If I train with intention, with an expected outcome, not only am I more efficient with my training session, I have accomplished something that will move me forward to my overall goal, be it improving my running time or other performance measurement.

If you have set goals for yourself, it makes it much easier to determine how you will approach each workout or training session. If you do not have any goals or objectives, it makes it much harder to be purposeful in your workout and it will show not only in your workout, but in your overall fitness. When you “practice” with purpose and focus in your daily workouts, your overall fitness will show it, especially when it comes to perform in a “game situation”, whether it is a local 5K race or the Boston Marathon, or just playing in the yard with the kids.

Question: How do you approach your training sessions, with a specific plan or do you just show up and use whatever equipment is available? Let me know in the comments.

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“Practice makes…

Better.”

There, I said it, I will never be perfect. No matter how much I practice, there will always be some aspect of whatever I do that I can improve.

I am preparing to give a five minute speech this coming weekend on stewardship. I have reworked the speech in my head at least a dozen times. I have written the first draft and made notes, now it is time to start practicing the speech and the delivery of it. I know from experience that I need to practice the speech several times to make it better. I also know that no matter how many times I practice it, once I deliver it (and I will have the opportunity to deliver this speech five times) there will be ways to improve either my delivery or the content.

For me, the key lesson here is not to say, “Oh well, I will never be perfect, so why practice.” rather “I want to give my best effort and always get better, so I must practice to get better.” I suppose we strive for perfection, but in my humble opinion there was only one perfect person in recorded history and I am not Him. So I will go on practicing to make myself and all that I do better. Now, I have a speech to practice…

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